Nikitch & Kuna Maze
The collaboration project between musician Nicolas Morant aka Nikitch and Brussels-based producer Edouard Gilbert aka Kuna Maze began when the duo met at the Chambery Jazz Conservatory in France. Before attending university to study jazz, both artists had trained in classical music while growing up in the Lyon countryside.
This early musical development from Nikitch & Kuna Maze laid the blueprint for their musicianship today, allowing the duo to gradually explore the new artistic languages of jazz, and later electronic music. Both artists used their time at university to widen their horizons, encountering other musicians from outside from classical and jazz music circles, and as a result, started gigging and working on projects beyond the conservatory’s curriculum.
It wasn’t long until the duo started making electronic music together – a genre that wasn’t popular at the conservatory at the time, as retaliation. Born out of wanting to try something different, and a mutual love of the same artists, the pair produced their first beat on the train from Chambery to Lyon. Influenced by the likes of Flying Lotus (a pivotal artist for Kuna Maze, who started producing after hearing his fresh sounds), as well as Roy Hargrove, Thundercat, Flako, Dorian Concept, Tigran Hamasyan, Esböjrn Svensson Trio and Erykah Badu – the duo blend their influences from jazz, broken beat and a wide pallet of electronic music, into dance-floor package.
Both musicians eventually found a home on the French label Cascade Records, initially as solo artists – until releasing their first collaborative EP as Nikitch & Kuna Maze – titled “Cake”; an animated opus of moods, with five tracks spanning across jazz, progressive house and chill out.
Their debut release on Tru Thoughts, “Mush” sees the duo push the limits of what they began on ‘Cake’. Going further, the pair drive their own limits, incorporating more live instrumentation onto the record. Talking about signing to the Brighton label, Nikitch & Kuna Maze said: “With Tru Thoughts being 20 years old this year, it’s exciting to be part of this historic label. 20 years is quite an advanced age in the electronic music scene, which is pretty young.”
The artwork for ‘Mush’ is the perfect interpretation of the EP’s sonic output; a colourful floating shape in space – which later gave the band the onomatopoeic and down-to-earth title “Mush”. Now unveiling a new live set-up, performing with Raph Stark on drums, adding an energetic dimension to Nikitch on production/flute/sequence synth – and Kuna Maze on production and bass.
The duo perfectly syncretises their sound – with the vibrant colours of jazz, mixed with the frenetic beats of footwork & juke from Nikitch, combined with the granular synth-cosmic textures of Kuna Maze. This oscillation of jazz, downbeat, and hip-hop produces the duo’s signature sound, a crisp groove-laden output, that offers intimate and irresistible vivid textures to the listeners.
Part of the new wave of musicians, producers and DJs who are heavily influenced by the melting point of jazz and club culture – Nikitch x Kuna Maze draw parallels to UK counterparts such as Neue Grafik, Nubya Garcia, Joe Armon-Jones, and fellow broken beat revivalist Kamaal Williams aka Henry Wu.
Having already performed a blinding set at Worldwide Festival, both supporting Machinedrum under their own aliases at Le Sucre in Lyon, Nikitch & Kuna Maze have picked up praise from tastemakers such as Gilles Peterson (BBC 6Music), Laurent Garnier (Radio Meuh), Lefto, Lexis, 20Sly, Grems, Nightmares on Wax, Tina Edwards (Worldwide FM), Kid Fonque (Selective Style), Tim Garcia (Jazz FM) and gained press support in FACT Mag, XLR8R, Mixmag, Solid Steel, Majestic Casual, Music is my Sanctuary, Trax, and many more.
The future is looking bright for the French pair, and they can feel it too: “The biggest career highlight will always be to come”.